Co-authored by Tandarra Rothman and Maryann D’Sa

The challenge in a digital learning environment isn’t just to impart knowledge, but to ensure that students can apply this knowledge in real-world settings. Authentic activities and assessments bridge this gap by enhancing student engagement and fostering critical employability skills like communication and self-awareness.

We took up this challenge while working with subject coordinator Taylor-Jai McAlister on the Graduate Diploma of Psychology subject Society, Psychological Health and Wellbeing. This subject is one of the last that students complete before progressing to the Advanced Graduate Diploma. It provides them with an opportunity to see how all their acquired knowledge will be put to use as a mental health worker.

A 3-step sequence of a real-life scenario

Using backwards design principles, we took our cue from Assessment 3. This assessment requires students to assume the role of psychologist working in a multidisciplinary team that supports people with complex chronic illnesses.  We designed a simple sequence to define, simulate and model necessary skills. 

We used a simple learning design sequence:

  1. Set the scene – define and describe the stakeholders and their roles
  2. Simulate a conversation – show the stakeholders and allow students to see how they interact
  3. Model best practice – show how to communicate and present to key stakeholders or decision makers

Defining roles and responsibilities

A Multidisciplinary Team in healthcare comprises various professionals – doctors, nurses, dietitians, psychologists and social workers – who collaborate to treat complex chronic illnesses comprehensively. Each team member brings unique expertise, which is crucial for addressing different aspects of a patient’s condition. 

Our task was to make these roles clear and relatable for our students, ensuring they understand the interplay of these diverse disciplines. We employed interactive drag-and-drop activities to solidify the students’ understanding of each member’s role.

Bringing learning to life with role-played Zoom meetings

The academic provided us with a typical transcript of an MDT meeting. This gave us an opportunity to collaborate with the Education Media Team to transform this transcript into a vivid, role-played video. We settled on filming it as a Zoom meeting, which mirrors the remote working environments students will likely encounter in their careers.

With the support of our co-designers, we put out the call for volunteers to play extras. There is never a shortage of aspiring actors amongst learning designers, so it isn’t long before we had all the parts filled! What transpired was by all accounts a successful and patient-centred MDT meeting (without dead air or tech issues). 

I just wanted to say how easy this process was… We’ve had a few students reach out and say they particularly liked these two videos and that they helped them get in the shoes of a psychologist – super rare in a Grad Dip.

Taylor-Jai McAlister on the codesign process

This video, featuring our own academic staff playing the psychologist, added a personal touch. It enhanced teacher presence, making the learning experience both relatable and engaging.

Next, we focused on the psychologist’s role within the MDT. By showcasing an example presentation within the team, we provided a clear, annotated video that highlighted how to effectively communicate and present in professional settings.

Beyond a clear understanding of the roles, effective communication is key. We offered actionable tips and examples to polish students’ presentation skills to prepare them for future professional interactions. These strategies we developed to build communication skills are not confined to psychology. Whether it’s a business strategy meeting, an engineering project briefing or a legal team discussion, the principles of authentic activities and assessment can be universally applied to ensure that learning translates into real-world capability.

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